The dozens of Victorian trials threatened by a lack of legal aid money should now proceed under new funding guidelines, according to Victoria Legal Aid (VLA).

VLA said the interim guideline would allow for more flexibility in the funding of second lawyers in criminal trials.

About 50 cases were in danger of being delayed after the Court of Appeal last week upheld Victorian Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry's decision to postpone a criminal trial until VLA provided an instructing solicitor.

VLA managing director Bevan Warner said the new guidelines to take effect on Tuesday acknowledged the Court of Appeal ruling.

"The interim guideline provides a way of ensuring trials continue while we look more closely at how we will fund trials in the future," he said.

"The reality is that the customary model in Victoria of an instructing solicitor available to attend court for every day of every trial is not considered necessary to ensure a fair trial in other Australian states and is not financially sustainable."

VLA introduced a new system in January that put restrictions on paying for an instructing solicitor beyond two half-days of a trial, blaming budget cuts and greater demand.

Justice Lasry ruled in February that without an instructing solicitor the accused was unlikely to receive a fair trial.

Mr Warne said there must be further discussions between VLA, the courts and lawyers about the funding of jury trials in the longer term.

The interim guideline offers more discretion for funding in trials offering fees for a second lawyer, either an instructing solicitor or junior counsel, to support the barrister.

 

Advertisement